Warners Bros. defends cutting gay dialogue from Fantastic Beasts in China

Jude Law (center) stars as the titular character in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Jude Law (center) stars as the titular character in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Photo: Warner Bros)

Movie studio Warner Bros. has defended cutting an exchange of dialogue in the latest Fantastic Beasts movie for the film’s release in China.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore again looks at the early life of the Harry Potter character, Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law).

This is the third movie in a planned five-movie franchise and the first one in which Dumbledore is explicitly depicted as gay.

That poses problems for Warner Bros, who are counting on the film to perform well in international territories for it to turn a healthy profit.

The lines of dialogue axed from China run for six seconds, according to Variety. They allude to a previous relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (played by Mads Mikkelsen).

The specific lines are “because I was in love with you” and “the summer Gellert and I fell in love”. The cuts were made at the request of authorities in China.

“The spirit of the film remains intact”

Warner Bros has defended the edit.

“As a studio, we’re committed to safeguarding the integrity of every film we release, and that extends to circumstances that necessitate making nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors,” the company said in a statement to Variety.

“Our hope is to release our features worldwide as released by their creators but historically we have faced small edits made in local markets.”

“In the case of ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,’ a six-second cut was requested and Warner Bros. accepted those changes to comply with local requirements but the spirit of the film remains intact.

“We want audiences everywhere in the world to see and enjoy this film, and it’s important to us that Chinese audiences have the opportunity to experience it as well, even with these minor edits.”

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According to Variety, the future of the Fantastic Beasts franchise hangs very much on the performance on this third outing.

The first Fantastic Beasts movie grossed $800million globally. The sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, took $650million and was not so well received by critics and audiences.

It’s believed that Warner Bros. tried to reduce the budget for the third movie but the Covid pandemic resulted in setbacks and increases in costs. Also, the franchise has been hit by notable controversies.

Actor Johnny Depp previously played Grindelwald but was replaced by Mikkelsen for this movie after his failed libel trial against The Sun newspaper in the UK. Queer actor Ezra Miller, who also features, was recently arrested for disorderly conduct in Hawaii and was yanked from any promotion of the movie.

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Perhaps overshadowing both of these is that the movie’s creator, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, has increasingly divided people with her staunch criticism of extending rights for trans people. Insiders are wondering if Warner Bros. will ditch the franchise if this latest movie doesn’t come close to matching its predecessor: a tall order considering only five movies have taken more than $500million in the post-pandemic moviegoing era.

It’s already known the movie will not get a release in Russia because of the war in Ukraine. Expect similar cuts as those made in China to also be wielded for many parts of the Middle East.

The movie gets its US release on Friday (April 15).